Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thanking Those Who Defend Your Freedom

Being a Freedom Fighter isn't all politicians and legislation. It's also about supporting those who fight next to you, and for you. RC posted a great video sent to him by Papa John, illustrating a universal hand sign for "Thank You" that each and every one of us should be practicing. Check it out here.

Because I travel extensively in my job, I am in airports often. I make a point to address soldiers personally and thank them. They are often alone, and some seem to welcome conversation about where they have been and where they are going. Most are very young, and as a mother, I am struck by just how young they are and feel a strong sympathy for their families.

I know that not all people are as bold as I am, and might feel uncomfortable in addressing them in such a personal way, and some soldiers may also feel uncomfortable. And perhaps when you see a soldier you may be in a hurry to get somewhere and don't have time to stop and chat or vice versa. The universal sign for Thank You is the perfect way to let them know you care and appreciate what they do to protect your freedom. It's such a simple and easy thing to do.

These young boys and girls face atrocities most of us only hear about. Even though the nightmare of war affects fewer of our military than in past wars, that doesn't make it any less important. However, everyone should be aware and understand how significant that statement is when you consider what military personnel has gone through in past wars, and are still facing the aftermath of every day of their lives. Many of whom were spit on when they returned home.

I'm talking about our Veterans. The Vietnam Vets, those of Desert Storm, and many already in Hospitals resulting from injuries and trauma in the Iraqi war. For them, the war will never end.

Yesterday, I accompanied a group of people to the Veterans Hospital in Lake City, FL. This visit was planned and arranged by my friend Jewels (check out a past post on Jewels
here), who is a National member of Rolling Thunder, a group dedicated to American POW/MIA soldiers and Veterans of all wars.

That's our Jewels, front and center with the ladened vest. And that's RC being conspicuously inconspicuous in the center back, and me kneeling on the left. The baby carriage holds two "mascot" Chihuahua's, always a hit with those interred in a hospital. Many thanks to Jewels for her big heart and huge efforts in making this visit happen and continue to happen for these deserving souls.

Some of the group dared the predicted thunder storms and rode their bikes, some rode in cars. We were to have lunch with these resident Vets and provide some light in their otherwise routine lives of dealing with any number of disabilities, in a place they have no choice in living.

Our gift to them was us. And it left me with even more respect for those who fight for my freedom. They sacrificed their own well being and happiness for me. For each and every one of us. It was the least I could do; so small of an effort for me, and so huge of a joy for them.

Let me describe to you some of what I saw there:

The hospital looked like most any other hospital; cleaner and nicer than some VA hospitals, and less than others. None that I've been in look like or feel like home. I know. Because of my job, I have been in many hospitals, including VA hospitals, around the country. I did see a view of a garden area where some residents can partake of gardening.

One delightful and very coherent man of an older age, probably of the Vietnam era, was confined to a wheelchair. On his head he wore a red, white and blue do-rag, and his chair was adorned with other American flag elements. He had lost one leg at the hip, and had no use of the other. He told me that the VA had sent him home at one point, but could not provide consistent nursing care for him, so he demanded to come back. He had no choice.

Another young man, with bright strawberry blond hair and the manners of a southern gentleman, who couldn't have been older than 40, was relegated to a walker due to back and leg injuries. I suspect his injuries also included brain or mental injuries as well, as he became overly tired after only an hour visit. But he was so obviously delighted to have the attention from women other than nurses, that I was reluctant to circulate more than I did. He was a delightful man, and was very proud of the lifelong military service his father contributed, and obviously his own as well.

Some of the vets in wheelchairs could not feed themselves, but were delighted to have someone assist. Many were quite aged, and some were very young men. A few had family members present, and their misty eyes matched ours throughout the entire visit. They know all too well the needs of these special people.

Some of the men could not respond to much of anything, yet if you looked closely enough, you knew they loved having us there.

As in the rides I participate in with the Patriot Guard, this visit will not be the last.

I went home to my big house, my daughter (who is home for the summer), and my computer; to write about this experience in hopes of convincing my readers to give a bit of your time to the Vets in your community. To get involved with an organization that contributes to our fallen soldiers; be they disabled Vets, or those who come home to bereaved families. It takes so little, and gives so much back.

It doesn't require a motorcycle, or anything else, except compassion and respect for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice; their lives, their well-being, their everyday joys in life. All because they were asked to serve, and many who wanted to serve. Their lives have been changed forever, in a service that directly affects each and every one of us. It's not about whether the war is right or wrong, it's about those who served in the name of the Freedom all Americans benefit from.

A quick Google search on Veterans will turn up many ways to volunteer a bit of your time. I have a busy life, like most people. It isn't about what I receive in doing this. However, in giving a small amount of my time to these Veterans and their families, I have received joy back tenfold in seeing the delight on the faces of those who get very little joy in life anymore.

Visit the
Patriot Guard website. There are groups all over the country now. Membership is FREE, but no one must be a member to volunteer and participate. Most are motorcyclists, but owning or riding one is not a prerequisite. This organization is dedicated to protecting and preserving the Honor and Respect of our fallen soldiers and their families. Motorcyclist or not, you'll meet some of the most wonderful people, guaranteed.

Visit the
Rolling Thunder website too. The link goes to their "About Us" fact sheet. These men and women volunteer their time selflessly and diligently to provide a better life for those who have served. Many of them Veterans themselves.

Both organizations are not-for-profit, yet contribute so much to our armed services.

Show your gratitude for the men and women of our armed forces. Because of them you live free.


amoore said...

Thank you for coming up to us veterans and giving us thanks. We really like it and appreciate the gratitude because it is rare! I recently became a member of the site, they have some wonderful services for like minded military veterans of the US, they helped me find one of my friends I had lost contact with over the years

Sam said...

The pleasure was all mine, I assure you! We will be back, most definitely. And thank you for the wonderful link! Ah, the wonders of the internet. Be well my friend. See you soon.